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Pro League of Legends: What we learned from Week 2

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We know who is good in EU. If only we could say the same about NA.

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With many regions taking some time off to celebrate the New Year, this week was a quieter one for competitive League of Legends. It made for a nice break with the hustle and bustle of all the leagues starting play last week.

It did, however, shed light on a few things that we may have missed with the hustle and bustle of the league’s starting last week, such as a more clearly defined meta, and a glimpse at which teams may actually be good in a couple different regions.

With a few less games to focus on, I decided to look a little more on the big picture for the two leagues that had full schedules this week, EU and NA:

Two tiers of EU LCS teams

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There are two entirely separate tiers of teams within the European LCS. Even before I say the teams I bet you know exactly what I mean. In a lot of ways this is how EU LCS has always been, one or two teams that look head and shoulders above the competition. This year however, it looks like there are a couple more teams than we anticipated.

Before the split started the general consensus seemed to be that H2K and G2 were in a whole other league compared to the other teams in the region. However, after two weeks of play, it’s become clear the Misfits and Unicorns of Love also belong in that conversation. The talent of those two teams, which seemed clear last week, became undeniable on Saturday this week as they faced off against the two favorites from their groups.

In their series against H2K, Unicorns of Love proved they could go toe to toe with the best in the region. Both teams managed to dominate one game — for UOL it was game one, and for H2K it was game two — before the two duked it out in a tense game three gave us a high kill high action game that showed us exactly what both teams were made of.

G2 vs. Misfits was a series that’s a little harder to read in terms of scoreboards. On paper, games two and three weren’t super close for Misfits, though in truth the team kept pressure on G2 the entire time and forced them to play to a level we hadn’t seem them at yet this split. It was exactly the kind of game that might make for the perfect set-up to an eventual Misfits upset of G2 come playoffs.

Having two teams in each groups is great. Not just for the competitiveness of the groups themselves, but for the other team’s in the group to have a workable barometer by which we can measure their successes. If a team beats H2K, G2, UOL, or Misfits, it may be time to start taking them a little more seriously, or maybe not.

Who’s good in North America?

Riot Games

I spent a lot of this last week wondering what we would learn from this week in NA LCS. Turns out the answer was nothing. Actually, it’s worse than that, not only did we not learn anything we had one semi-salient fact — FlyQuest may be a really good team — challenged, because they lost to Echo Fox.

NA is currently the world’s worst game of Shoots and Ladders. Teams ascend the ranks beating better and better opponents only to lose to a team we had already written off, sliding them, and us, all the way back to square one. Only to start the whole process over again the next week.

So who in this league is actually good right now? The only thing we really know — as much as we can “know” anything, that is — is that Cloud9 is really good. Of course, Cloud9 play Team Envy next week and it would be very 2017 NA LCS for them to lose and slide all the way back to the beginning.

With our one fact as a guiding light, let’s taken inventory of the other teams looking good, and thus getting close to the inevitable fall back:

Phoenix1: Sure they lost to Team Dignitas early on, but they have improved in every game since then. (Climbing the very dangerous NA LCS ladders)

Team SoloMid: TSM has a very funny looking record right now. They look pretty good, and look cleaner with each game, but they have only beaten three okay teams. The one good team they played was Cloud9 and that wasn’t even close. So for now I suppose they get the benefit of the doubt and end up a “good” team.

FlyQuest: I know what I said earlier, and I stick by it, losing to Echo Fox makes FlyQuest a less “good” team. But they are still the closest thing in the NA LCS to consistent, so they get to stay here, for now.

Every team under these four is a fascinating, fun to watch, absolute mess. Honestly, it could be five or six more weeks before we have enough evidence to really call one team better than another. The good news is: so far the games have been a lot of fun and that’s all that really matters right now anyway.

The settling meta, what’s next

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Remember last week, when we were all so excited by the prospect of new and interesting champion picks, the meta seemed like a beautiful field of endless possibilities. How naive we all were. Now we live in a dystopian hellscape where I can guess seven of the ten champions in a game before I know which teams are playing. I am going to regret saying this but: I really hope the lethality changes/Courage of the Colossus nerfs have an impact on the meta. (To anyone reading this after this week: I’m sorry I wished for this).

It really isn’t that I don’t like tanks, it’s that I like choices. Right now it feels like teams are shoehorned into picking one of three AD Carries who can be used as primary engage. This makes champion select infinitely less interesting because it allows coaches to neglect engage from any other role. After all, why pick a toplaner, or jungler who can start a fight when you have Ashe.

We need an infusion of champions who can challenge Ashe, Varus and Jhin in lane and make picking them a legitimate risk. That kind of pressure isn’t going to come out of the support role because those supports are also playing with passive laners, it has to come from someone like Lucian — we really need Lucian — who needs a strong and successful laning phase to have an impact later in the game. This might also help push teams to pick legitimate comps rather than the all-purpose teamfight champions that make up the whole of the current meta.

This is probably all just wishful thinking for now. The changes to lethality were significant, but it’s unlikely the risk of going out on a limb to break the utility AD Carry meta is going to be worth the possible reward. It seems likely that another round of buffs will be on their way to AD Carries, but it will also be crucial to steal a bit of power away from the perma-ban champions like Camille, Leblanc and Rengar, after all these champions are all designed to kill risk-taking AD Carries. Until those changes happen though, we will just have to hope that Warwick’s re-introduction to the game will shake things up in a couple of weeks.